Bike Ride to Bountiful
Bike the Guadalupe River Trail in San Jose and see parks, sculptures, gardens, and wetlands
The bustling metropolis of San Jose includes a treasure trove of beautiful bike trails, many of them hidden in plain sight, winding alongside the city’s riverbeds. The Guadalupe River Trail is an excellent ride with minimal hills and easy access to food, art, and entertainment along the entire 10-mile stretch of trail. NOTE: All in, this bike ride is 20 miles (round-trip), but you can flip it at any point, and for cyclists who make the full 20-mile journey, the up-close wildlife viewing as you pass through the wetlands makes this adventure well worth the effort.
The trail begins in a eucalyptus grove on West Virginia Street. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trailhead just east of SR-87 has plenty of nearby street parking. In less than a mile the bike path opens up to Discovery Meadow, a grassy park that’s home to the Children’s Discovery Museum and Monopoly in the Park, a massive Monopoly board built into the ground. This is an excellent stop for families with small children. Restaurants and cafes fill surrounding streets, making lunch an easy find.
Heading north and dipping below street-level, the Guadalupe River Trail winds along for another mile, a mix of U-turns and double-backs, filled with modern art installations and beautiful murals.
TIP: Cyclists should definitely keep an eye out for trail signs, including arrows hand-painted on the asphalt. When in doubt, follow the dotted yellow line. At West Julian Street, exit the trail and roll right to visit historic Little Italy, the original settlement for Italian immigrants in the 1800s. Here, you can grab a glass of vino at Paesano or a gelato and Italian coffee at Bel Bacio.
Continuing north along the trail, cyclists will dip below Coleman Avenue (again, look for signs and arrows) and emerge in the Guadalupe River Park. Here, the brand-new Rotary PlayGarden is a great destination for families, with grassy hills, a mini ropes obstacle course, and even child-size climbing walls. The park also boasts the Heritage Rose Garden, a gorgeous display of thousands of rose varieties, free to the public.
The next stop on the journey is the San Jose Airport—maybe not a sight most explorers are clamoring to see, but this freshly-paved section of trail gives you an up-close view of airplanes coming and going, and the long, flat stretch encourages cyclists to try racing the landing jets. You may never outrun them, but you’ll have fun trying. Just north of the airport, an art installation sits at the trail’s intersection with Trimble Road. Lupe the Mammoth is an 11-foot-tall, 12,000-pound sculpture commemorating the discovery of a mammoth skeleton at that very site.
From Lupe, it’s a 5-mile ride to the Alviso wetlands, the southernmost shore of San Francisco Bay. Riding right beside the river, you can often catch sight of ducks, geese, herons, and egrets. To the west, Levi’s Stadium rises above the trees, while to the east, Mission Peak, Mount Allison, and Monument Peak dominate the skyline.
The trail ends at the intersection of Gold Street, marked by a giant compass carved into the concrete. Straight ahead, a dirt path will lead to an up-close view of the water. To your left, weary bikers can refill their water bottles and use the restrooms. And to the right, a small cluster of restaurants stands waiting to refuel you for the ride back home. A favorite haunt of local cyclists is El Taco De Oro (5220 N 1st Street) where a plate of tacos and a spicy chavela make the perfect mid-trip snack, at prices far more reasonable than what you’d find in the city.
Find street parking near 359 West Virginia St., San Jose, and head to the trailhead just east of the freeway.
Story and photos by Poe Casavant
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